Home to the renowned Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh values education highly. The quality of local public schools is high, with options including charter and magnet schools. There are also private schools that base their teaching on religious or alternative education methods. While there are no schools teaching foreign curricula in Pittsburgh, a handful of schools in the city and its surrounds do offer the globally recognised International Baccalaureate.
Parents looking at schools in Pittsburgh will have to consider many factors, such as proximity to home and work, particular neighbourhoods, the specific educational needs of the child, and budgetary concerns.
Public schools in Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh’s public schools generally have a good reputation, though naturally some outperform others. Since school attendance is assigned based on residential zones, it’s a good idea to do thorough research before deciding where to live. If unsure about a school, parents should check its Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA) score, which measures reading, writing, mathematics and science achievements.
Charter and magnet schools
Like public schools, charter and magnet schools receive state funding. However, they are generally considered to be more culturally diverse, offering a more personalised education. Charter schools follow the state curriculum but are self-managed, meaning they are typically more innovative and flexible in their teaching styles than traditional public schools. Magnet schools, on the other hand, have specialised curricula in fields such as the arts, science and languages.
Magnet schools offering language immersion are a decent substitute for the lack of international schools in Pittsburgh. These schools are not bilingual but do teach a foreign language daily. From Pre-K to Grade 5, there are various schools offering this programme for Mandarin, Spanish and French. From Grade 6 onwards, students at these schools usually continue at the Obama Academy of International Studies, which teaches the International Baccalaureate.
Private schools in Pittsburgh
There are a number of private schools in Pittsburgh offering a high standard of education. These schools are often based on alternative education models, such as Montessori or Waldorf, or are religious schools.
Unlike public schools, private schools charge fees, so expats planning on taking this route should ensure there’s enough budget for it. A distinct advantage of private schools is that they aren’t zoned, so families have more options of where to live.
Homeschooling in Pittsburgh
Newly arrived parents in Pittsburgh will be pleased to know that they can legally homeschool their children. It's important, though, that they make sure they comply with the education laws of Pennsylvania.
The person who will be acting as the educator needs to have at least a high school diploma or its equivalent. Parents also need to file a notarised affidavit with the local superintendent before they start the homeschool programme. The affidavit should, among other points, assure that subjects will be taught in English and outline the proposed education objectives by subject area. Parents of children with special needs need to also get their education plan approved by a state-certified special education teacher or licensed clinical or school psychologist.
Children need to be taught 180 days in a year. There are various compulsory courses that need to be taught depending on the student's school level. Parents are also required to keep a portfolio that includes documentations such as a log, student work samples and standardised testing. This portfolio needs to be submitted annually to be evaluated by a licensed psychologist or a teacher certified by the state.
Alternatively, parents can choose to employ a private tutor to take on the homeschool responsibilities. They can also choose to enrol their child in a satellite of an accredited day or boarding school. These two options still allow children to be taught at home, but it lowers the responsibility placed on parents.
Special-needs education in Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh provides an extensive range of educational services and support for students with special needs in public schools. These services include learning support, emotional support, autistic support, life-skills support and multiple-disabilities support.
Outside of the public school system, the city has a number of excellent private schools that practise inclusive education. Pittsburgh also has several schools that cater to specific disabilities such as schools for the deaf, the blind, and students with other special education needs.
Tutoring in Pittsburgh
Many Pittsburgh parents choose to have their children tutored. There are a vast number of options available to students who require extra help with specific school subjects. Some of the top tutoring companies in Pittsburgh include Pittsburgh Tutor and Pittsburgh Prep. Parents who don't want to work through a tutoring service will find that there are also a number of private tutors in the city ranging from retired teachers to university students.
►For recommendations of family-friendly neighbourhoods, see Areas and Suburbs in Pittsburgh
Are you an expat living in Pittsburgh?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Pittsburgh. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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